Federalism and Legal Unification in Austria
Due to the strong centralizing character of Austrian federalism, the degree of unification of laws is particularly high. While the component states (the Länder) retain a residual competence under the Federal Constitution, a vast majority of competences is expressly allocated to the federal level. Little is left for the Länder to legislate, sometimes even restricted by a concurrent federal competence for framework legislation. The Länder are ineffectively represented in the federal legislature, even though the informal conference of Land Governors has much political influence at the federal level. Unification is further driven by EU law, which requires homogeneous implementation and thus increases the need for internal cooperation (a long-established characteristic of Austrian federalism). In constitutional terms, cooperation becomes particularly manifest in the formal agreements concluded between the federation and the Länder or among the Länder themselves, and which reconcile the fragmented distribution of competences with the aim to enact harmonized legislation. A reform of the distribution of competences as well as of the federal second chamber has been discussed intensely in recent years.